By Gavin Gibbon
Issam Kazim, chief executive of DTCM said intimate live performances could be blended with online entertainment
Dubai’s events and entertainment scene could include a blended mix of live and online offerings as the sector gradually recovers from the impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown and various restrictions, according to Issam Kazim, chief executive officer, Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
Kazim revealed Dubai is still some way off hosting the type of events witnessed prior to lockdown – such as the thousands who witnessed Lauren Hill, Lionel Ritchie and One Republic at this year’s Dubai Jazz Festival at the end of February.
Speaking at an Instagram Live discussion on the future of live events as a result of Covid-19, alongside DJ, promoter and entrepreneur Charl Chakah, he said: “It’s very difficult for us to give a date at this stage. Things are changing on a daily basis, we are keeping our fingers on the pulse to ensure that we are aware of any of the dynamics. But at the same time I don’t think it’s going to be very soon.
"We’re hoping as much as you that the sooner we get there the better, within the parameters that we’ve set.”
Dubai’s events and entertainment industry has been decimated with the closure of hotels, bars and restaurants for almost four months from the end of March, as well as curfews, lockdowns and social distancing regulations.
However, Kazim admitted he has been impressed by the switch to online performances from artists across the emirate.
“What we’ve seen is, with the concerts, whether it’s a guy at his home on his balcony with a guitar, and broadcasting live, not just across Dubai or the UAE, but even global. The amount of people that I’ve tuned into myself, local performers and DJs performing live, and then seeing all the people from all around the world giving shout-outs from different cities and countries that are tuning in, and putting Dubai on the map, that’s a big message,” he said.
“For them to realise that Dubai is this one vibrant place, even during the lockdown period,” he added.
Chakah agreed that local performers really made the best of a bad situation during the lockdown.
He said: “One thing I realised as soon as this all started, is that music is winning because all of Dubai’s artists were out there performing from the heart and really just trying to share a bit of light and a bit of music and inspiring people, stay safe at home, really the artists, the industry and the music came out.”
Earlier this month, DTCM relaxed rules allowing single artist performers to perform within guidelines, including wearing face masks, keeping social distancing and no large gatherings.
Chakah welcomed the move. He said: “For a lot of artists who have been out of work for a very long time, it was such a relief to see that we are coming back to something.”
The authority also previously waived fees for event permits and events fees until September.
Kazim said that many people remain nervous about large gatherings and believed that, as part of the phased return to a “new normal”, the digital world and a more intimate version of live events could combine.
“A lot of people might have this caginess about, can I go? Is it safe? Do I need to wear a mask and gloves? What if I come into contact with someone? What we’re trying to look at is, how can we position ourselves, put some gradual measures in place, a step-by-step approach, sort of what we did by restaurants even, opening it up to a 30 percent capacity first and then slowly and gradually getting it to 100 percent,” Kazim said.
“This doesn’t mean that we have to sit back and wait for things to go back to the way they were, or go back to the original norm. The term we always talk about nowadays is the ‘new norm’ and I think there will be a new norm for quite some time and potentially this new norm can open up new avenues and new routes for us to consider.
"I think there’s going to be a good blend, a good fusion between the two as we go along because it has opened up new horizons to a lot of these performers and artists. I think it’s going to have a very different shape in the near future," he added.
As countries slowly open up again to the world, Kazim has challenged Dubai’s artists, performers and entertainers to find a solution for the industry that can then be used as an example across the globe.
He said: “I think it’s very important for you guys to get together and try to think, what can we do? What is a new innovation that can take place within this space and maybe we take it from here, from Dubai level, to the globe and show the people what Dubai has done and that becomes the model that everyone else follows.
“Even though it is a solution for a problem we have today, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be the solution people can use, or even add-on to the norm when they go back to it.
“It’s a great chance for us to really challenge ourselves and look at these opportunities and work with all the partners across the board, across the entire ecosystem within the entertainment and events field, and try and see together collectively, what could be the future of the events industry.”